Friday, May 30, 2014

Moving on

Time for new scenery.  We’ve been in Juneau for two nights now – tonight will be the last one for this trip.  We’ve used the time to get caught up on email and make some phone calls but really there’s not a whole lot of reason to stick around.  We went for a walk around downtown today but we didn’t see much. Its the State Capitol but there’s not much to see.  The city is roughly the same size as Prince Albert so imagine what there would be to see in P.A. if the cruise boats could get there.  If you didn’t tour the jails, just exactly why would you stick around?


We’re going to start heading south again – maybe we’ll at least find some warmer weather.  Currie, on The Mermaid, our buddy boat, should have arrived in Ketchikan today, if he didn’t get drowned in Dixon Entrance.  We’re so glad we didn’t wait to travel with him – not because we wouldn’t have enjoyed his company but simply because of what all we’ve seen on our own.  Now however we’re looking forward to connecting with him and his crew of adventurers for a visit.  Neither boat wants to be tied to a firm schedule but right now we think we’ll meet up at Kake.  That’s an Indian Reserve about 60 miles south of where we are right now. 


We were going to Kake anyway because its at the north end of Rocky Pass.  That’s one of the north south routes through southeast Alaska that we didn’t take on the way north but that I think we will try on the trip south.  It sounds like the kind of place where you could get in a lot of trouble if you tried to hurry but where you could have a lot of fun if you went slow and just enjoyed the scenery. 

We’re going to leave Juneau sometime in the morning and go south of the city to a little bay called Taku, at the north end of Stephens Passage.  From there we’ll go down the passage to Gambier Bay at the south end and then cross our tracks north of Portage Bay to get west over to Kake.  I’m not sure what to expect for cellular coverage in that area – I think we had pretty good coverage when we went through there a couple of weeks ago.  Its also supposed to be good whale waters although we didn’t see anything other than a solitary humpback through there. 


I threw that last picture in as a lead in to a lecture about bad boat handling, which we’ve seen plenty of since we left Cow Bay.  Some of the floating hotels are downright ignorant, apparently believing that the waters belong to them.  Some of the fishermen also have a fairly liberal interpretation of the colregs.

We’ve helped people dock their boats who were clearly clueless and totally dependant on having someone on the dock to pull them in.  On one occasion I offered to catch lines and a crew member tried to blow me off but the captain threw me a line and thanked me for taking it.  The picture above is of really bad anchoring technique.  It held for two nights but a big blow would have been fun to watch as long as we weren’t in the downwind path.

The anchor chain is the straight, almost vertical line extending from the bow pulpit.  By the angle and the taut nature of the chain you can tell that there’s not much chain to spare - “scope” is the fancy sailor word.  We typically like to have a minimum of 5:1 scope when we anchor.  That means that if our bow pulpit is 60 feet above the ocean floor then we will have 60 x 5 or 300 feet of chain out.  Those numbers are typical up here by the way.  In Desolation Sound or the Gulf Islands we often anchor in 20 feet or less of water.  Up here 40 feet is shallow and we’ve been in deeper.  So to start with, “Cabaret” doesn’t have much scope out – I’d guess 3:1 or less, maybe a lot less.  That means that rather than pulling on the anchor the chain is tending to lift the anchor.  The fact that the water where they anchored was around 80 feet deep just confirms my suspicion about their scope.  80 feet of water plus 8 feet to the bow pulpit means that even 5:1 scope would require 440 feet of chain out.

The second big problem with their anchor setup is how they have attached the bridle.  The bridle is the system of lines that is attached, in their case anyway, to the anchor chain just above the surface of the water and leading back to cleats on the foredeck.  The purpose of a bridle is to transfer the anchor load to the cleats and off the windlass.  In the photo above it is obvious that the load is still on the chain all the way to the pulpit.  If you look really close there is actually a little slack in their bridle.  So it is doing exactly nothing.  If the chain happened to break between the bridle attachment point and the windlass or if the lock on the windlass lets go then the bridle will take over.  Otherwise its just window decoration.

When we put a bridle on the first difference is that its about twice as long as what Cabaret has done.  Our bridle ends up attached to the anchor chain deep below the surface of the water.  The more important difference though is that after we attach the bridle I release the chain.  And I release a LOT of chain.  I will typically drop 25 to 50 feet of chain so that it hangs in a big loop suspended by the bridle.  The weight of all that chain hanging in the water serves two purposes.  First it completely unloads the windlass.  More importantly it weighs the attachment point down so that it is much deeper in the water.  That means that our chain which is already long and thereby coming off the anchor at a shallow angle has that angle further reduced.  The goal is to get the chain pulling as close as possible to horizontally across the floor of the ocean.  That way it pulls against the anchor rather than trying to lift the anchor out of the seabed.  I’m sure we’ll have some bad nights at anchor but I’m also sure that we’re more secure than a lot of the boats we see around us.

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